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Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Abstract

Online petitions have become a powerful tool used by the public to affect change in society. Despite the increasing popularity of these petitions, it remains unclear how the public consumes and interprets their content and how this helps the creators of online petitions achieve their goals. This study investigates how linguistic factors present in online petition texts influence petition success. Specifically, drawing upon the dual-process theory of persuasion and the moral persuasion literature, this study examines cognitive, emotional, and moral linguistic factors in petition texts and identifies how they contribute to the success or failure of online petitions. The results, which are based on an analysis of 45,377 petitions from Change.org, show that petitions containing positive emotions and enlightening information are more likely to succeed. Contrary to popular belief, petitions containing heavy cognitive reasoning and those emphasizing moral judgment are less likely to succeed. This study also exemplifies the use of an analytical approach for examining crowd-sourced content involving online political phenomena related to policy-making, governance, political campaigns, and large social causes.

DOI

10.17705/1jais.00530

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